When I was much younger and my dad was going through a golf phase, he would sometimes take my brother and me with him to the local driving range. I would work my way through a bucket of balls, hitting them into the abyss — too much power and not enough control was always my problem. It's an issue that is exacerbated on crazy golf courses where my solution is to whack the ball as hard as I can and hope for the best.
Despite my lack of skill, I was, however, very excited when my brother managed to acquire a batch of tickets for Swingers, a 1920s-themed crazy golf venue hidden away underground near the foot of the Gherkin. We went on a sweltering evening last week; I hadn't done my research and had assumed it would be outside with views of The City and, more importantly, a breeze but in fact it was indoors, underground and a little too warm. That said, we had a fantastic night so I would definitely recommend trying to get tickets (they keep about half of tickets for walk-ins but you can book online here). A game costs £13.
While we waited for our tee-off time, we hung out at the central club house bar. The cocktail menu was seriously impressive, with most cocktails costing £9–11. I started with a salted maple pecan butter flip (rum, egg whites and, of course, salted maple pecan butter syrup), which was rather sweet but very tasty. After our game, I opted for the more seasonally appropriate passion fruit julep, which was delicious and refreshing and came with half a passion fruit balanced precariously on top of the crushed ice. Both drinks were expertly mixed.
There are also several street-food vendors in the building: I had a hard time choosing between Pizza Pilgrims and Patty & Bun, but ended up choosing the latter as I eat there less often. Slightly confusingly, you order all food at the central bar and are then given a ticket with a number on it. When your number turns red on one of the many monitors, you can collect your food from the vendor. "It's just like Argos," one of my friends said. It is more convenient for groups, though, once you know the system. I had the 'Colin Montgomery' (£10) — a burger with bacon, lettuce, ketchup, special sauce and — bien sûr — Montgomery cheddar. It came perfectly medium rare and was juicy, messy and bloody delicious.
Finally, it was golf time. Our group of seven was split into a group of three and a group of four, so we had a girls' team and a guys' team. There are two different nine-hole courses at Swingers, The Lighthouse and The Windmill, and we were playing on the former. It was pretty busy on the course — the staff to try to space groups out but there are inevitable bottlenecks, and it seemed like there were a few too many 'caddies' on hand to take drinks orders given the available space.
I was doing OK — getting par on two holes and even a birdie on one hole — with my standard strategy of hitting the ball as hard as I could; sadly, my ability to close was less successful and I ended up taking six shots to complete a hole that I could have done in three.
Still, it was the final hole that was my undoing: a doughnut-shaped spiral with a central sandpit that had no protective ridge to stop the ball falling in. My ball went straight into the sand and in an ill-advised attempt to chip it out, I ended up hitting my sister-in-law with it (she was fine) and spraying everyone with sand. This put me in second place in our group of four by one point (shot?), which was a bit of a shame. We all had a great time, though, and I would definitely like to have another game.
We stayed on for another drink and then I decided to walk off my burger by heading home on foot. It was nice to walk through The City by night and then it turned out that Tower Bridge was closed to traffic after a nasty accident, which meant I had a rare glimpse of my local river crossing without the cars — a somewhat eerie experience.
Swingers. 8 Brown’s Buildings, London, EC3A 8AL (Tube: Bank or Aldgate). Website. Twitter. Instagram.